Egypt is a land of uneasy leisure- a country who's most important industry is tourism and who's constant fear is terrorism. Egypt is still in a holding pattern of sorts, still under marshal law and heightened security measures stemming from the 1997 attack that saw sixty-three tourists gunned down in front of one of Luxor's most famous archaeological attractions- the temple of Queen Hatshepsut. The carefully planned attack was designed to hurt the government, instead it was a catastrophic blow to the Egyptian economy nation wide- it shut business down cold for over a year. The recovery has been slow but steady over the past ten years and recently Egypt has enjoyed a marked increase in visitors mainly from Europe. The attack itself is an unpopular subject amongst regular folks here- they want marshal law lifted. Our guide, Ahmed, is a scholar of Egyptology and is openly outspoken against many of the policies currently in place, "We have freedom to speak here," He explains, "We just don't have freedom to change anything." At issue is the fact that Egypt has had the same president for the past twenty-seven years- his name is Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, he is eighty years old, and although Egyptians in general don't like his dictatorial style of government, they fear the looming changes they know are close on the horizon.
Our first stop in Egypt was the glittering coastal resort town of Sharm el Sheikh. A town literally carved out of the raw desert. Located along the coast of the "Red Sea]()http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Sea, at the bottom of the Sinai Peninsula, Sharm el Sheikh was built as a beach resort attraction for tourism and nothing more. Everything here is beautiful, wonderful, and totally artificial. Every tree, every flower, and every drop of fresh water here has to be trucked in or made from scratch. There are no natural resources to support the city's massive infrastructure except the Red Sea itself. A short drive from the modern airport, through the barren desert, a turn up the grand avenue of palm trees, and your world is suddenly transformed into an Eden like fantasy land- a remarkable desert oasis. Security is very visible here- before being allowed entry onto the resort property, our official hotel car was first inspected carefully by armed guards scanning underneath with mirrors and looking inside the trunk.
the Las Vegas of Egypt
Metal detectors and more guards greeted us at the front door, but for the most part, this is all for show. We encountered many such check points during our visit in Egypt- most of the time we were simply waved through. Sharm al Shek is often called "the Las Vegas of Egypt", loaded with casinos and lavish beach resorts, it's a great place to relax and have fun. Art and I really enjoyed snorkeling on the reef in front of our hotel. Even though it was only the "house reef", the fish and coral were both very colorful and plentiful; we even spotted a sea turtle. The Red Sea is known as one of the world's top scuba diving destinations. Our little snorkeling adventure was better than many tank dives we've been on- fantastic!
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